Peak Oil, and other random thoughts

I’m still not quite fully home yet. It just takes a while to get back into the routine. What this means is that my thoughts tend to be a little less complete than usual (I do hope this is just a temporary phenomenon).

That said, I do have a few snippets of thoughts that may be worth mentioning. First off, Peak Oil. The link is to a big NYT Mag article on Saudi Arabia, but Kevin Drum has been quite vocal on the subject recently as well. I want to focus in on one part of the Maass article, though, on the effects of triple-digit per barrel oil prices:

The impact on the American way of life would be profound: cars cannot be propelled by roof-borne windmills. The suburban and exurban lifestyles, hinged to two-car families and constant trips to work, school and Wal-Mart, might become unaffordable or, if gas rationing is imposed, impossible. Carpools would be the least imposing of many inconveniences; the cost of home heating would soar — assuming, of course, that climate-controlled habitats do not become just a fond memory.

Now let me get this straight: because the price of oil goes up, home heating goes up? But my home is heated by natural gas. Do high oil prices necessitate high natural gas prices? I thought this was an oil crisis, due to difficulties in extracting crude oil beyond a certain point. How does that affect gas? It’s an honest question. And why would climate control become a “fond memory”? My climate control is powered by electricity, which comes from coal, not oil. Why does peak oil affect that? Last I heard, we’ve got enough coal to global warmify us all to saharan levels. I’m not saying peak oil isn’t something we should be worrying about, but I’m not sure it’s the armageddon some of the hype might lead us to believe. Sure, there might be a waiting list for electric cars as the crunch hits, but in the long run, I’m not sure the transition away from an oil-based economy is as scary as some of the die-hards are predicting.

Moving on now. How’s about this e-publishing thing? If:Book’s got a couple of great posts about some new ventures into e-publishing. The first is about a podcast of a science fiction book (Earthcore), and the second discusses the efforts of Warren Adler (War of the Roses) to reclaim the rights for his 27 novels so that he can self-publish them electronically. He claims that publishers don’t get it, and so he’s doing it his way. Of course, the guy’s already made a fortune selling traditional books and film rights, so it’s not exactly a massive risk he’s taking. The Earthcore project, by contrast, is a bit more daring. Author Scott Sigler isn’t a major name, and he decided to podcast his entire novel for free, presumably in the hopes of attracting the notice of publishers. Now that’s a risk! Interestingly, I think it might be more of a risk for the second and third (or two- and three-hundredth) authors who try it. Instead of being a public interest phenomenon, it’s just another bunch of starving authors trying to get noticed. But maybe the idea will gain ground, and people will start looking for interesting new authors in this format. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Finally, what about this recent series in the NYT about the creationism movement. They start with an article on the Discovery Institute, with hardly an indication on what wackos they are. Next they cover the “debate” over Intelligent Design by giving the lead to the IDers. Finally, they have an article about how scientists are all a bunch of atheists. Way to show some balance to the debate. What I’d love to see is some coverage of how grassroots blogs like Panda’s Thumb are working to combat this well-financed nonsense from the religious right.

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